Fine fayre from Ken the Milk

The second recipe book I owned, bought for me for Christmas by Mum and Dad, via Ken the Milkman, was The Dairy Book of Home Cooking: New Edition for the 90s. I have the third edition, published in 1992. Dairy cookbook cover.jpgThe first edition appeared in 1968, with the second, a metricated version, in 1978. I’d love to have a browse at those earlier editions; I bet they are wildly Cradock-esque. By the way, did you know Fanny’s real name was Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey? How marvellous a name is that?

I relied on this book for years – I was a new Mum the Christmas it was given to me – and it has been really useful for what I think of as “entry level” recipes; you know, a basic Victoria sandwich recipe and a fail-safe formula for Yorkshire puddings. But, since going wholly plant-based in 2015, it is perhaps unsurprising that this once-beloved book, published, remember, by the same organisation that gave us “milk’s gotta lotta bottle” and “drinka pinta milka day” has been sitting gathering dust on a shelf.

As you may recall from recent posts about this all-plant culinary odyssey of mine, I have been mulling over a few ideas: a drive to use various ingredients – some very specialist – I have acquired over the years, several of which are fast approaching best before dates; trying a recipe from each of my 100+ cookery books; and how to translate the inspiration given by the range of truly excellent vegan restaurant food Steve and I ate on a recent trip to Amsterdam to at-home food. Dairy cookbook pancakes egg replacer.jpgThe buckwheat pancakes we ate at Dapper oud-west (http://www.dapperbar.nl/ and Instagram @dapper_amsterdam) were light and fluffy and reminded me that I hadn’t attempted a vegan pancake recipe. This, coupled with a box of Orgran egg replacer  (Twitter @OrgranUK), purchased in an “I’ve gone vegan” spending frenzy three years ago, set me to pancake creation one bright but cold Sunday morning at the end of November.

It surprised me that my (many) vegan cookbooks came up short on a pancake recipe which used a commercial egg replacer. They tended to favour soaked chia seeds or ground and soaked flax seeds. I have abundant stores of both of these seeds but wanted to try the box of egg replacement powder. So I reached for my trusty Dairy Book of Home Cooking and decided to adapt.

Using the book’s American pancakes recipe, I swapped egg replacer for eggs, precisely following the substitution ratio. For the butter, I swapped in Farringdon’s rapeseed oil (Instagram @mellowyellowkitchen) Dairy cookbook pancakes rapeseed oil.jpgand for the milk, I used a combination of Alpro’s (Instagram @Alpro) unsweetened soya milk and a few teaspoons of Alpro’s single soya cream that was knocking about the fridge. I also dropped in about a teaspoon’s worth of Nielsen-Massey’s (Instagram @nielsenmassey) vanilla extract, because most sweet things in life taste and smell better with the addition of vanilla. Having mixed it all together, I decided the batter looked too thin, so I chucked in a few handfuls of chia seeds, swirled it around, and let the whole lot rest for half an hour. Thirty minutes later I concluded the chia seeds had worked their magic a bit too well and that the batter was now too thick, so I sloshed in another few glugs of soya milk. The lesson I took away, and which I have since applied, is that the egg replacer would have done the job perfectly well if only I had trusted it. Dairy cookbook pancake recipeAnyway, once I had sorted batter consistency, I got busy with a frying pan. By the way, I have no idea what my numbers in pencil on directions on the recipe relate to. My best guess would be some long-forgotten calculations on the toad in the hole ingredients which share a page with the pancake recipe.

I was really pleased with the outcome of my experiment. The batter (eventually) had a good, gloopy consistency; the rapeseed oil adding not just flavour but also a hint of golden yellow which otherwise would have been missing. The chia seeds, though not needed, did add a nice crunch. And as for the vanilla, well, see my comment above.Dairy cookbook pancakes batter in jug.jpg

While the pancakes were cooking, I excavated from the bottom-left corner of the chest freezer a half-used bag of raspberries. They’d been lurking there, like a garnet-coloured iceberg, since February, having been purchased when we were in the midst of a morning smoothie fad. I heated them with a little jam sugar and, once warm, thickened with some cornflower and water: a almost-instant raspberry sauce. As a card-carrying vegan, I, of course, had a bottle of maple syrup in the cupboard. I also had a few bullet-like lemons in the bottom of the fruit basket which I subjected, with a bit of welly, to my favourite citrus-presser. Accordingly, serving options for Sunday brunch pancake stacks were with maple syrup, or Coconut Collaborative yogurt (Instagram @coconutcollab) and raspberry sauce, or, for the traditionalists, freshly-squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of Tate and Lyle granulated.

Dairy cookbook pancakes finished product

 

A tasty gift from 1985

The first cookery book I can remember acquiring was The Colour Book of Vegetarian Cooking, edited by Carole Handslip. I have the 1984 reprint. The Colour Book of Vegetarian Cooking front coverIn Upper Sixth, I turned vegetarian and this little recipe book was bought for me for my 19th birthday by first year uni friends, Jayne and Sarah. (Allow me to clarify. I didn’t have some catastrophic falling out with Jayne and Sarah in first year which meant they weren’t also second and third year uni friends. The rather more prosaic story is that I didn’t last beyond Easter of first year in my initial attempt at university.) I had spotted this cookery book in the remaindered bookshop in Bath and Jayne and Sarah bought it for me.

By today’s standards, it’s a pretty slim volume, with only about a third of recipes accompanied by a photograph of the finished dish. But, in my early years of being “a veggie” I turned to it often and, as a consequence, it is well-thumbed and more than a little grubby. Indeed, the page for gnocchi with tomato sauce and that for corn and asparagus flan – neither of which I have ever made – had quite welded together and I had to separate them with great care; with great care and a serrated knife.

Many of the recipes have egg and dairy as principal ingredients, but there’s a sub-chapter dedicated to nut and pulse dishes, so I headed there. I opted to make the bean and tomato hotpot, Bean and tomato hotpot recipeadapted to account for my lack of a large leek (a shallot, green pepper found idly withering in the crisper drawer, chopped-up stalk of broccoli and additional carrot made for gallant stand-ins) and eschewing of butter. I also doubled the quantity of tinned tomatoes and chucked in a tin of butter beans in addition to the kidney beans (yes, more Amazon Prime inadvertent bulk purchases, thanks for asking). I found a bag of Apache potatoes sprouting nicely in the back of the fridge, so once I’d “de-eyed” them, they were halved for the hotpot topping.

This really was a very easy cook Bean and tomato hotpot ingredients rawand resulted in a tasty dinner which went down well with both vegan, and the non-vegan, diners. It reminded me how much this particular book had been my vegetarian cooking primer for many years. Three pages on from the hotpot recipe I found the one for vegetable curry. I followed this recipe for years and remember well the first time I made it, up in the fifth floor kitchen of our halls of residence in Somerset Place. That first time led to an earth-shattering revelation: turmeric turns cauliflower yellow! A discovery so profound I made a note of it on the page of the book.

To conclude with a blast of pure hiraeth. I’ve lost touch with Jayne and Sarah. I did reconnect with Jayne when Friends Reunited was at its zenith, so about 15 years ago. A that stage she was back living in her beloved Westcliffe-on-Sea while directing her own PR company in London. We tentatively arranged to meet, but it never happened. She told me Sarah had married and emigrated to Australia – or possibly emigrated and married – many years ago. Sarah was the first contemporary I ever knew who had a credit card. Ahh, Sarah and her shiny Access card. I wish I’d kept in touch with her and Jayne.

Finished recipe

Year end & year beginning

Reflections on 2016 and excitement for 2017

Reflecting on 2016 this New Year’s Eve, I have much to be happy about – I’ve achieved lots and had new experiences – but I’m not entirely happy with the balance I’ve achieved in the course of the year. So here is my end of year reckoner and ideas for what I plan to do in 2017 to achieve better balance.

Home life has been joyful in 2016 with children coming and going and playing and growing. After 25 years we had our first taste of being “empty nesters”, for about six weeks, and we adjusted fine. The house stayed really tidy and a packet of Oreos lasted a whole fortnight.

Social life in 2016 has been good too, particularly re-connecting with school friends most of whom I hadn’t seen for 30 years.

2016 saw my second, full year following a plant-based diet. Having been vegetarian since the age of 18, I haven’t found the transition to veganism difficult. I haven’t even missed cheese, or my former guilty pleasure of Gregg’s vegetable pasties, which I anticipated I would. The biggest challenge I encounter is sourcing decent, nutritious vegan food when travelling for work, particularly if I fancy something warm. No doubt this will continue to be a theme in 2017. All in all a big tick in this area of my life, the occasional wiping of sour cream from my avocado on toast breakfast and mayonnaise from my lunchtime salad leaves notwithstanding.

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A once beloved vegetable pasty from Greggs, the Bakers

My professional work in 2016 has been very fulfilling. Having made a significant career change at the beginning of 2013, I think last year really saw me hitting my second and third careers’ grooves (yup, I have two, quite different careers at the moment). With my principal role, I have enjoyed travelling to, and working with colleagues in, Basel, Geneva, Zurich, Madrid, Luxembourg, Dublin, Cambridge, Peterborough, Reading, Swindon, Watford, Cheltenham, Bracknell, Marlow, Monmouthshire, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton, Milton Keynes, Welwyn, Hertfordshire and, of course, London. Phew, what a lot of travel this year. And ok, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I experienced the full beauty of Peterborough and Watford…

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Oftentimes on my travels I get to enjoy views like these, each of which I have had fun trying to photograph in 2016

The second string to my professional bow had me clock up 3,600 miles to run a small performing arts-based business on Saturday mornings. Hugely enjoyable and rewarding, except the bit on the M25. Yeah, those 1,500 miles were less enthralling.

Don’t misunderstand, I love my travel. Hiraeth travels with me though and when away from home I often feel wistful for the cwtchiness of my little cottage in Surrey (and all my kitchen gadgets and vegan cookbooks, naturally).

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Occasionally on my travels, I get to “enjoy” views like these. Yes, these are actually the sights from two of my hotel rooms this year. On these weeks, the hiraeth is very strong with me.

Lots achieved and much to feel proud about. On the other hand, not enough exercise, too many pots of hummus eaten in hotel rooms and too few moments of calm. So, to help address the imbalance, here are my plans for 2017 (I am resolutely not making resolutions, if you see what I mean; I’ve made them for years and never stuck to them, so I don’t see the point):

Travel will remain a feature of my professional life in 2017. I plan to take an evening walk around whichever town I have rocked up in (assuming it is not raining and I am not booked into an “express”-type hotel on the side of a motorway or dual carriageway) and I plan to seek out a local vegan or vegetarian restaurant. And I need to try different tactics to take home with me, so that I have just enough, but not too much, hiraeth to see me through to the end of my working week;

I want to expand my mind, not in an LSD way, but in a cultural growth way. I plan a visit to a gallery or museum once a month;

I have a collection of 100s of vegan recipes. When I’m not travelling, I plan to cook many more of them in the coming year. Eat the rainbow and all that;

I adore taking photographs. I plan to take more and better photographs.

I’m pretty excited about all of this. Right then – let’s make a start.

Hiraeth

Hiraeth is a word from my native Wales that brings together ideas of home, happiness, warmth and longing, distance, separation, pining for the past:

The Land of Lost Content

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
A E Housman